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Infinite BBQs

By Michael Banks in Boston

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold.
(Courtesy: Ryan Matthew Smith)

Here is a good quiz question. What contains more water: a cucumber or a glass of milk?

If you happened to guess the humble cucumber then you would be correct.

At least that is, according to Nathan Myhrvold, who says the water content of a glass of milk is around 85%, while for a cucumber it is more like 95%.  This is because milk is made up of other things such as proteins and fat.

Myhrvold, who has a PhD in physics, was speaking at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston where he gave a plenary lecture to a packed audience on the science of cooking.

Myhrvold is the brains behind the recently published six-volume, 2400-page tome  Modernist Cuisine that took him and his staff of eight researchers around five years to put together.

Apart from talking about the novel cooking techniques he has developed such as making crispy chips in an ultrasonic bath and spinning peas in a centrifuge to bring out more flavour, Myhrvold had some tidbits of information we could all put to use.

One is how to make wine taste better. Usually when wine goes from a bottle into a decanter the taste improves. However, if you don’t fancy using a decanter then you can just put the wine in a food processor and give it a quick blitz. According to Myhrvold this produces just the same effect.

Another is creating what Myhrvold says is an infinite BBQ. In a BBQ the food is cooked by infrared radiation emerging from the hot coals. As this radiation is emitted in all directions the centre of the grill is much warmer while the outer sections are cooler. His solution is to put foil around the inside of the BBQ to reflect some of the radiation back from the coals that are on the edge of the BBQ. This then acts to cook the outer section just the same as inner part.

Food for thought, indeed.

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